From working as a nurse in emergency departments, immigration detention centres and in military operations, Bridget Henderson has learnt to quickly adapt to all situations.
Drawing on her training as a nurse in Johannesburg and later working in emergency departments, immigration detention centres and in military operations, Bridget Henderson has learnt to quickly adapt to all situations.
Bridget Henderson’s nursing career began in the intensive care unit within a large city hospital in South Africa, attending to gunshot wounds, stabbings, and blast injuries.
Her next jump was to burns units and emergency departments in England and Australia, then to immigration detention centres on remote islands, military operations and exercises, and lastly teaching and designing postgraduate degrees for the next generation of nurses.
“Nursing is one of the most diverse careers I know,” says Bridget, a Flinders graduate and academic.
Aside from her lecturing role at Flinders, Bridget is also a nursing officer in the Australian Army Reserves, a role she’s been in for the last 10 years.
Drawing on her training as a nurse in Johannesburg and later working in emergency departments, Bridget has learnt to quickly adapt to all situations in the army reserves with agility.
“As a nurse in the army you learn to improvise, be responsive, flexible and above all else be cheerful even if you are cold, wet, hungry, and tired,” she says.
“I have provided medical support for soldiers more times than I can recall, and my role varies depending on what level of medical support is needed and the location we are in.”
The nature of the Army Reserves job can range from working as a medic with a backpack, working out of a vehicle, within a resuscitation team or in a mobile hospital.
Through simulation exercises, Bridget has also learnt how to move causalities on and off MRX90 helicopters in high-pressure and hostile environments.
“Nursing in the army comes with additional skill requirements, such as field craft and logistics,” she says.
“Currently I am posted to 9CSSB and one of my roles is to provide primary healthcare and trauma training for the medics.
“I was so privileged to be able to provide support for the community during the bushfires at the start of 2020.
“If you like a challenge and you like adventure working as a nurse in the Defence Force will not disappoint.”
Growing up in Zambia and South Africa, Bridget pursued a career in nursing at the age of 18. Learning Afrikaans and working in Johannesburg set her on a pathway towards bravery and resilience.
She then moved to the south of England and worked in hospital emergency departments for many years before deciding to come to Australia and progress her career.
Flinders University offered an online course – the Master of Nurse Practitioner – allowing her to work and manage her busy family life around her studies.
After completing that course Bridget changed gears again and worked for the government looking after refugees in remote locations including Christmas Island, about 1500km west of the Australian mainland.
“It was an amazing nursing role with diverse and sometimes challenging patients who were highly stressed, and their futures were uncertain,” she says.
Never staying in one spot too long, Bridget again decided to change paths, this time entering the world of academia.
She now teaches and co-ordinates the postgraduate emergency nursing core topics at Flinders as well as the Master of Nurse Practitioner Integrated Professional Practice topic.
Bridget says academia is a different world to clinical employment, but without her previous practical experience and postgraduate studies she would be unable to design courses, teach students and maintain clinical relevance.
She’s also proof that nursing is a profession that offers endless diversity.
“A nursing degree is just the start to a world of opportunities,” Bridget says. “The trick is to look for those opportunities.”
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